Tag Archives: sparkofgenius

Pattern Activity: Recognizing the pattern of Human Struggle in Latin Art

Recognizing and forming patterns through the topic of Latin Art this week was a challenge as I was considering what the true definition of patterning means.  To me, patterning is the development of similar ideas or guidelines in a specific construct, based on previously created schemas or biases.  According to Robert and Michèle Root-Bernstein’s “Sparks of Genius: The 13 Thinking Tools of the World’s Most Creative People,” a pattern is “…a repetitive form or plan,” and that to “…perceive a pattern means that we have already formed an idea of what’s next,” (Root-Bernstein, 1999. p. 92).

Prior to this class, recognizing patterns within Latin art was not an element (or “spark,”) that I focused much on with my students when finding connections (or discussing) pieces of artwork. Because Latin Art is a sizeable topic, I can say that finding a patterns within this topic can be quite the feat to conquer.  Previously to this course, I have introduced my students to some Andean traditional art (specifically art created by Indigenous people of Ecuador, Peru or Chile) and show them the intricacies and elaborate color schemes of these pieces. I’d have students point out things that they recognized in the work and then we’d talk about them as a group and eventually I’d give my students an opportunity to create their own similar art but in drawing form.  Students usually point out the pattern formations that they noticed – both in color and in shape.  For example, in the following Peruvian woven textile, here is a dualistic pattern of two serpents:


In the above piece, students would point out the double pattern on each side (both top and bottom, as well as side to side), which is specific to dualistic art.

Or here’s a Peruvian Wari Tunic, again showing us a continual pattern both in color and geometric shape:

Source: https://www.ancient.eu/image/3959/

I think there is a point in discussing Andean art in the class, because it allows students to see the consistency of pattern creation across a traditional culture in South America.  When my students get that opportunity to create their own (or mimic) traditional Andean art, they enjoy the simplicity of setting up a very visible pattern and then providing a pattern of color in it as well.  

Although I show my students traditional art, I personally find more modern Latin art to be more entertaining and interesting for the fact that it is more communicative and represents something much larger than the paintings/drawings themselves.  It communicates to the viewer information about the time period of when it was created and also emotes the feelings and sentiments of the artist and/or the Latin people portrayed in the art.

As I was thinking about finding and forming patterns in this module and doing my research on modern Latin art work, I noticed a recurring theme or rather a pattern for viewers to be able to feel and understand the human struggle during the 20th and 21st centuries for Latinos. This same pattern continues to present day Latin art, which even rolls over to Mexican-American (or Chicano) artists today who portray the modern day struggle through their art work (including graffiti murals and paintings).

The pattern of portraying human struggle in latin art isn’t as obvious as the patterns in color and shapes, like that of the Andean traditional art.  In fact, it wasn’t until I was doing research on different Latin artists that I came across this pattern.  I noticed that many pieces of art were portraits of people using darker-toned colors (blacks, browns, deep reds, navy, etc.) and showed a story.

Tasking my students to identify patterns, I would show them something like this ThingLink I created with different pieces of Latin artwork:


With my students, I would keep this pattern of the human struggle in the back of my mind, but I wouldn’t mention it to them at first. I would show them different pieces of Latin art (by different artists) and ask them to describe what they see in each painting.  From there, I would task them to get in small groups and use their senses to first perceive (use all of their senses) the painting and write that down.  Then I’d ask for them to find a pattern – I’d ask them:

  1. What similarities do you see in each of these paintings?
  2. What differences do you see in each of these paintings?
  3. Is there a notable pattern that you have found?
  4. Do you see any emotional connection to these paintings?

After working in small groups, we would get together as a large group and discuss the recognizable patterns that are easier to find (such as color similarities), and then through that discussion, I’d hope eventually someone would turn out a response about the human struggle pattern. If not, I would allude to it or ask probing questions to get to that response.  From there, I’d give my students an opportunity to relook at those paintings and see if they can find that pattern and denote what elements clue into the pattern of human struggle; what colors, what expressions, what shapes or what images within entire painting as a whole allude to that pattern? This way they can not only interact on a deeper level with the painting but also grasp a historical perspective of Latinos at the time in which those paintings were created.


Root-Bernstein, R. S., & Root-Bernstein, M. (1999). Sparks of Genius: The Thirteen Thinking Tools of the World’s Most Creative People. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin.


Perceiving Activity: A perception of Frida Kahlo’s “Self Portrait with Cropped Hair”

I chose to pick a specific painting that I would show or use in my Spanish class to introduce and teach my students about 19th Century Mexican Art. I really enjoy Frida Kahlo’s art and I think that she shows  many different perspectives of Mexican culture and self-portraiture through her work.

As I was exploring which piece I specifically wanted to work with, I was thinking about what may open the minds of my students and question some of their own thinking about norms and normative behaviors. Which is why I chose to re-imagine Frida Kahlo’s “Self Portrait with Cropped Hair” from 1940.

Here’s the original piece:




At the time that Frida created this piece, she was divorcing her husband, Diego Rivera (another famous Mexican artist) who had been unfaithful to her (Source: MOMA).  My original thoughts and perceptions of this painting was that Frida was expressing her more masculine-of-center side. The side of her where she could and would feel more independent and maybe even do more (especially in the ‘40s and in Mexico).  I honestly took the painting as a way to express a feminist perspective on the “machismo” societal views of Catholicism in Mexico and the times of 1940s.  A viewpoint which was very gender-binary, you were either male or female, no middle ground and on top of that, masculinity was much more valued than femininity.

For the most part, when we look at a painting or piece of work we analyze or perceive it as it is. What does this painting do for us? What is this painting telling us? What is the story behind this painting? Often times we question the artist, asking them why the artist painted it the way they did and what does it symbolize? And we even question what kind of emotions are evoked when we look at this painting?  To re-imagine this piece of work, I decided to do the opposite and think about what it was like to be Frida Kahlo in that painting.  What was she thinking, feeling, seeing, doing?  And what was Frida’s perception sitting in the chair looking back out?  What was she wanting to tell the viewer about her feelings and emotions at the time of this creation?

In my re-imagination, I wrote out spoken word (poetry) and playing around in GarageBand on my computer, I created some music with loops to put behind the following spoken word: Link to Frida Perception Activity.

As I’m sitting here, peering out into an empty home.  

Thinking about every beautiful moment we had together.

Ruined by your unfaithfulness.  

I sit here with your ruined perception of my beauty.

I say goodbye to my hair.  Goodbye to my traditional clothing and goodbye to your words:

“Mira que si te quise, fué por el pelo, Ahora que estás pelona, ya no te quiero”

 “See, if I loved you, it was for your hair, now you’re bald, I don’t love you any more.”.

The faint smell of fresh empanadas and mole linger in the background as I cut every inch of my silky black hair.  Falling to the floor, each lock of hair unties me. Letting me be free, letting me be who I am as an independent person. Independent from your norms and the norms of our people.

I sit here before you with a lingered pain but also a feeling of freedom and comfort.

This loose suit just barely grips my shoulders and waist. In a way that doesn’t force me to sacrifice the person I have always been.

And for that, thank you for what you have done.  For now I am who I am, independent of who you are, both as a man and as an artist. I can sit here, perceived as an equal.

Originally, my thought of what perception is, is the idea of how we initially look or view our outside surroundings. However, after this module, I am understanding that perception is more than just visual. It includes perceptions using all of our senses — hearing, smelling, thinking and touching. Perception can also push the boundary of what we are perceiving physically and try to flip ourselves into understanding what that person or thing we are perceiving is perceiving upon us (like an inception).

I really enjoyed this module because it pushed me to think beyond what I normally do for my own classroom.  I want to take this activity and give my students an opportunity to pick pieces of art and instead of looking at what the art tells them, have them come up with their perception from the art’s perspective.  I’d even try to get them to write their own poem, spoken word or rap; and then teach them GarageBand and how to create a music to accompany their spoken word.